By Dr George Venturini
Paying tribute to Elizabeth II as Queen of Australia in the House of Representatives on 7 February 2012, then Prime Minister of Australia Julia Gillard stated that the Queen was a ‘revered figure’ in Australia. (Commonwealth of Australia, Hansard, House of Representatives, 7 February 2012 at 8-10).
Ms. Gillard also announced that she would on 4 June light a beacon atop Parliament House and that a street in the parliamentary triangle in Canberra would be renamed ‘Queen Elizabeth Terrace’. Meanwhile, then Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett announced on 28 May that a new waterfront development in Perth would be named ‘Elizabeth Quay’ in the Queen’s honour.
A special ecumenical service was conducted in St James’ Church, Sydney, at which the invited preacher was Cardinal George Pell and the Governor of New South Wales, Dr. Marie Bashir, was the guest of honour. The Anglican Church of Australia also held a service of prayer and thanksgiving to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee at St. John’s Cathedral in Brisbane, on 20 May 2012. The service was welcomed by Phillip Aspinall, Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane, and the Homily was given by Mark Coleridge, Catholic Archbishop of Brisbane. The guest of honour was the Governor of Queensland, Penelope Wensley, and Ian Walker represented the Queensland Cabinet. Did anyone say ‘secular Australia’?
Between 5 and 10 November 2012 Prince Charles and wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, toured Australia visiting to Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory.
In the United Kingdom, national and regional events to mark the Diamond Jubilee were coordinated by the Queen-in-Council and her Royal Household at Buckingham Palace. As with the Golden Jubilee in 2002, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport was responsible for coordinating the Cabinet-led aspects of the celebrations. Events were planned so as to keep the use of tax money to a minimum; most funds used to fund celebrations were drawn from private donors and sponsors. Only the cost of security was by Her Majesty’s Treasury.
On 5 January 2012 the Lord President of the Council and Business Secretary Lord Mandelson had announced that an extra bank holiday would have taken place on 5 June 2012. Moving the Spring Bank Holiday, which falls on the last Monday in May, to 4 June resulted in a four-day holiday in honour of the Diamond Jubilee. As national holidays are a devolved matter, Scotland’s First Minister confirmed that the bank holiday would have been held on 5 June in Scotland. Some economists later theorised that the holiday could have reduced the country’s gross domestic product by 0.5 per cent in the second quarter of the year, though this would have been partially offset by increased sales for the hospitality and merchandise sectors.
The centrepiece of the festivities was a four-day weekend extravaganza at the beginning of June. The dates, 2 to 5 June, had been chosen because those were known, statistically, to be the driest few days in England. Those days were to see street parties across the country, the lighting of thousands beacons across the Commonwealth, a river pageant of 1,000 boats on the Thames, and a giant concert in London.
The River Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant was held on 3 June; a maritime parade of 1,000 boats from around the Commonwealth – the largest flotilla seen on the river in 350 years – together with other celebrations along the river banks.
Along with almost all members of the Royal Family, various governors-general from the Commonwealth realms were in attendance. The Diamond Jubilee Concert, with a preceding afternoon picnic in the palace gardens for the 10,000 concert ticket holders, was held on 4 June, in front of Buckingham Palace, and featured acts representing each decade of the Queen’s 60-year reign.
Members of the Royal Family, governors-general, and prime ministers from the Commonwealth realms were present at various functions held on 4 and 5 June. A reception took place at Buckingham Palace before the Diamond Jubilee Concert and a service of thanksgiving was conducted the following day at St. Paul’s Cathedral, also attended by 2,000 other guests.
The Archbishop of Canterbury dedicated his sermon to the Queen, during which he noted her “lifelong dedication” and stated that she “has made her ‘public’ happy and all the signs are that she is herself happy, fulfilled and at home in these encounters.” (‘Dr. Williams pays tribute to the Queen at thanksgiving,’ BBC, 5 June 2012).
Afterwards a formal lunch was held in Westminster Hall. The Queen returned to Buckingham Palace in an open top carriage procession and escorted by The Household Cavalry Regiment. Another reception was held at London’s Guildhall and a luncheon took place at Lancaster House, hosted by the British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. A reception solely for governors-general was held by the Queen at Buckingham Palace.
The weekend of celebrations ended with a balcony appearance at Buckingham Palace. The Queen appeared on the balcony with the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall, the Duke of Cambridge, the Duchess of Cambridge, and Prince Harry in front of cheering crowds outside the palace and along The Mall. There followed a feu de joie (a rifle salute fired by soldiers) and a flypast by the Red Arrows and historic aircraft, including the last flying Lancaster bomber in Britain. Several media commentators commented on the significance of only senior members of the royal family appearing on the balcony. B.B.C. royal correspondent Peter Hunt remarked that it “sent a message demonstrating both continuity and restraint at a time of austerity.” [Emphasis added] (‘Diamond Jubilee: flypast brings celebrations to an end,’ Archived 8 June 2012 at the Wayback Machine. BBC News, 8 June 2012).
There were, of course, other, permanent and costly tributes: a new mosaic figuring the Queen in Towner Gallery in Eastbourne, the granting of city status to several places in the United Kingdom, the renaming of the Olympic Park in East London as Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, a new stained glass window in Westminster Hall, the casting of new Royal Jubilee Bells, the issue of commemorative coins and stamps, the granting of Regius professorships status to twelve university chairs in the United Kingdom, the renaming of the Kew Gardens Main Gate as Elizabeth Gate, the renaming of a portion of the British Antarctic Territory as Queen Elizabeth Land, the unveiling of works of art, and speeches by and for the Queen a little bit everywhere, with military parades et cetera.
Planning for so many months of gilt, velvet and polished trumpets had begun four years before. How much would be spent? Well, Buckingham Palace staff had delicately avoided questions of exactly how much the celebrations would cost, but the planned river pageant alone was estimated to command 10 million pounds (AU$15 million – in 2012).
During the Silver Jubilee of 1977 newspapers described a country which was tired and riven by industrial conflict. Its people talked of feeling a bit lost, and yet – from a distance of 35 years – they seemed enviably grounded in a shared culture with deep roots. There was striking uniformity to their celebrations. Invited to have fun, people first grumbled, then formed committees. It is remembered that at previous royal jubilees children were given commemorative mugs, prompting endless rows about paying for them. The grown-ups would receive beer. It was the equivalent of panem et circenses – bread and games, the offering of a previous savage empire.
At those previous royal jubilees there were violent sporting contests, from tugs-of-war to free-form football matches. To conquer reserve, fancy dress was worn, often involving men in women’s clothing. From the West Midlands came news of an all-transvestite football game, with the laconic annotation: “all ended up in the canal.” How perfectly consonant to le vice Anglais!
London displayed both patriotic zeal – flag-draped pubs in Brick Lane, big street parties in Muswell Hill, and hostility – cheerless housing estates, slogans declaring “Stuff the Jubilee.”
Scotland was a nation apart. In Glasgow the anniversary was called “an English jubilee.” Snobs sneered along with Scots. At Eton College, a wooden Jubilee pyramid was smashed by old boys. At Oxford University, examinations were held on Jubilee Day, in a display of indifference.
When the 2002 Golden Jubilee arrived, Britain came across as a busier, lonelier, more cynical place. The Royal Family was regarded as ‘just showbiz’. There was angry talk of Princess Diana and how her 1997 death had been mishandled by the Queen. There were fewer street parties than in 1977. This was variously blamed on apathy, the authorities – for failing to organise events, apparently, and above all on health-and-safety rules.
The 2012 Diamond Jubilee would find Britain changed again. Diamond jubilees being rare – the last was achieved by Queen Victoria in 1897, the Queen would be firmly at the centre of the celebrations. Just a week before the beginning, local councils would receive more than 8,000 applications to close roads for street parties, suggesting that 2002’s passivity was fading. The country was not returning to 1977 and its home-made fancy-dress costumes or Coronation bunting dug out of attics. Shops would heave with Jubilee cakes, disposable decorations and flag-emblazoned baubles, letting consumers buy patriotism out of a box.
The 2012 show would not end with the four-day events, but would continue with ‘Diamonds: A Jubilee Celebration’. It would be on display from 30 June to 8 July and from 31 July to 7 October, as part of the summer at Buckingham Palace.
The State Rooms of Buckingham Palace have been open to the public every summer since 1993. What started as a way to pay for the fire damage at Windsor Castle in 1992 has continued past the cost of those repairs and when the Queen retreats to Balmoral in Scotland for a ‘well earned rest’.
The Exhibition was destined to be the most valuable ever set up at Buckingham Palace in whole 21 hand-picked items. Ten thousand priceless diamonds, set in works collected by six monarchs over three centuries, would be on display, many for the first time ever, to mark the Queen’s Jubilee.
The Exhibition includes jewellery made from the world’s largest diamond ever found – the Cullinan Diamond – which weighed 3,106 carats as an uncut stone when it was found at the Premier Mine near Pretoria in South Africa in 1905. It carries the name of the chairman of the mining company, Thomas Cullinan. Seven of the nine principal stones cut from the Cullinan Diamond would be reunited for the first time in the Exhibition. These seven stones are set in a ring, a necklace and three brooches, one of which, the Cullinan III and IV Brooch, would be worn by the Queen for the National Service of Thanksgiving at St. Paul’s Cathedral, during her Diamond Jubilee celebrations, on 5 June 2012.
From the diminutive diamond crown worn by Queen Victoria throughout her widowhood, to the breath-taking Coronation Necklace, featuring a staggering 22.48 carat pendant, the Exhibition features some of the most spectacular pieces from the Queen’s private collection. Among them would be the diamond Diadem Tiara, shown by the Queen on British and Commonwealth stamps, which also features on some issues of coinage and bank notes, as well as Queen Victoria’s Fringe Brooch, and a diamond-set Coronation Fan, made for Queen Alexandra at the time of the coronation in 1902. The Diamond Tiara, which is worn by the Queen for the state opening of parliament is set with 1,333 brilliant-cut diamonds, including a four-carat pale yellow brilliant; the piece was actually made for the famously extravagant coronation of George IV in 1821. At the time, king George IV had paid 8,000 pounds – equivalent to 815,000 today (AU$1,273 million – in 2012). Made originally for a man, its feminine appearance so much appealed to his wife, Queen Adelaide, that she borrowed it on a rather more permanent basis.
Queen Victoria’s dazzling Fringe Brooch, which has never been displayed in public before, includes two impressive jewels presented to the Queen by the Sultan of Turkey. It contains a large, emerald-cut central stone and nine graduated pave-set chains suspended from an outer row of 12 large, brilliant-cut diamonds and were last seen being worn by the Queen, appropriately, for a state banquet in honour of the President of Turkey in 2011.
There would also be a Jaipur Sword and Scabbard, set with 719 diamonds weighing a total of 2,000 carats, originally presented to King Edward VII for his coronation in 1902.
Among other precious items there would be a table snuff box owned by Frederick the Great of Prussia, incorporating nearly 3,000 diamonds, which was purchased by Queen Mary in 1932.
The Coronation Necklace would be among the pieces set to go on display. It was handed down to female members of the family from Queen Victoria to Queen Alexandra, Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, and then to the present Queen who wore it on the journey to and from her own coronation.
The Delhi Durbar Tiara would link two events of the British monarchy. Called the ‘Proclamation Durbar’, the Durbar of 1877 was held beginning on 1 January 1877 to designate the coronation and proclaim Queen Victoria as Empress of India. The tiara was refashioned in 1911 for Queen Mary to wear to a spectacular ceremonial gathering in India in 1911, paying homage to the new King George V.
In 2005 Queen Elizabeth ‘loaned’ it as a reward to Camilla Parker-Bowles when the former adulterous lover of her son Charles became her new daughter-in-law and was anointed as the Duchess of Cambridge. Camilla has worn it in public numerous times since.
On display, too, would be jewels worn by Queen Victoria for her diamond jubilee and less stately and more personal pieces which have been altered to suit different moments in history, changing tastes and varied personalities. For example, because of a need to conceal a scar on the neck of the elegant young Princess Alexandra, a fashion for ‘dog collar’ necklaces began. The young Princess Elizabeth, the current Queen, showed a penchant for flowers. The brooch she had made by Cartier in 1953 was a floral tribute to its central pink diamond from South Africa.
In preparation for the Jubilee, the London jewellery house De Beers had manufactured a crown to top all others. Called ‘The Talisman’, it comprises 974 diamonds – 797 of them are polished; 177 are rough – and required more than 100 hours to complete. “Rough diamonds were once worn exclusively by kings and queens, [and were believed] to bring power, protection and prosperity,” said De Beers’ C.E.O.
Continued Wednesday – A cast of characters: The Monarchy (part 5)
Previous instalment – A cast of characters: The Monarchy (part 3)
Dr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini devoted some seventy years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents.
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